Barton Willmore, Lichfields and Pegasus still plan to go to MIPIM despite withdrawal of other big firms

Three of the UK's biggest planning consultancies and the biggest planning law firm have said today they are still intending to attend the MIPIM property conference in France next month, though a number of other firms have announced they are not going due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

The 2019 MIPIM conference in Cannes. Pic: Getty Images
The 2019 MIPIM conference in Cannes. Pic: Getty Images

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) also said this morning that it is pulling out of the property world’s showpiece event, which is scheduled to take place from 10 to 13 March in the southern French city of Cannes. 

Concern about travelling to Cannes heightened this morning after the first case of the virus was reported in the town. 

Switzerland, which like the south of France shares a border with the outbreak’s European epicentre in northern Italy, has announced today that it is banning public events in a bid to keep the spread of the virus under the control. 

Savills, the UK's biggest planning consultancy according to Planning's annual survey of the sector, announced earlier this week that it is pulling out MIPIM 2020. 

The company said it would be "inappropriate to attend" given that MIPIM involves many thousands of people travelling from multiple countries across the world. 

Mark Ridley, group and global CEO of Savills, said: "Due to the scale and size of this conference, and the importance of the event to our industry, this decision has not been taken lightly but our absolute priority is the welfare of our staff as well as avoiding any service disruption to our clients in light of increased coronavirus cases across Europe."

Consultancy Avison Young, which had the seventh-biggest planning team in the 2019 consultancy survey, said it "has been carefully monitoring the situation following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and has taken the decision to withdraw from both MIPIM and IHIF conferences".

In a statement, the firm said: "As responsible global citizens, we believe we have a duty to support the World Health Organisation’s containment objectives, and to be mindful of the potential impact on wider communities beyond our immediate network. 

"We are a people-first company and have taken this decision to protect our staff, our families and our wider communities."

Property firm CBRE, the 12th-biggest planning consultancy in our survey, also announced this morning that it is withdrawing from MIPIM. 

In a statement, the company said: "With the safety and wellbeing of our people at the forefront of our considerations, we have decided to withdraw CBRE’s attendance at MIPIM this year, in light of the confirmed cases of coronavirus in Continental Europe.

"We continue to monitor and assess our attendance at all upcoming events and associated travel."

And a spokesman for Knight Frank said the evolving nature of COVID-19 in Europe has forced the company to reconsider its presence at large multi-national events. 

He said: "To that end we will no longer be attending MIPIM. The health and security of our people and clients are of utmost importance and have to be prioritised over all else."

However, Matthew Spry, senior director of Lichfields, the third-biggest planning consultancy in the survey, told Planning this morning that "as it stands", the company will attend. But he said this decision is "pending the advice of the relevant agencies". 

Barton Willmore, the second-largest consultancy, has said it is continuing to make plans to attend the event. 

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for seventh-biggest consultancy Pegasus Group said that its plans to attend MIPIM are "currently" unchanged but the company is "monitoring" the situation. 

Law firm Pinsent Masons, which has the biggest planning team in the UK, according to the 2019 Planning Law Survey, similarly said it is continuing to evaluate its presence at the event but has not yet withdrawn. 

But the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) announcing this morning that it is pulling out of the conference.

Sean Tompkins, global chief executive officer of the RICS, said: "In light of concerns about the ongoing spread of coronavirus, RICS has made the unfortunate decision to withdraw from MIPIM 2020. 

"This hasn’t been an easy decision, however, the health and wellbeing of all our people is our foremost priority."

Developer Landsec has also said it is not going to attend.

A MIPIM spokesman confirmed this morning that the event is due to run as scheduled. 

He said: "Whilst we appreciate the situation is continually evolving, as of today more than 90 per cent of companies remain committed to attend MIPIM. 

"Therefore, we re-confirm that MIPIM will run as scheduled on 10-13 March.

"Our decision is based on current facts and guidance from local, national and international authorities including the World Health Organization. There is no travel ban in place across France, and France and Cannes are not identified as areas of concern. 

"We are pleased to confirm that our programme of content remains inspiring with major keynotes and senior figures including mayors, political leaders and key stakeholders from the real estate industry. Investor participation continues to be strong with many reaffirming their support."

The spokesman added that MIPIM "will have a dedicated medical team in place in Cannes and will be working with the city and health authorities to ensure that any delegate will have access to full medical treatment and guidance in the unlikely event that it is required".

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